Northern Syria: EU must not tolerate Turkey’s invasion of a neighbouring country and the ongoing targeting of civilians and inhuman blackmail
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) urge the European Union (EU) and its member States to decisively act to stop Turkey’s military operation in Northeastern Syria, and put an end to the proliferation of impunity surrounding the ongoing exactions targeting civilians by all parties to the conflict in Syria.
We express our deep concern of the Turkish disregard of the halt of military operations in Northeastern Syria announced on Thursday, as its troops continue its aggression against Syria’s northern border regions.
Over the first 5 days, the Turkish operation caused tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes. And as the fighting continues, violations of international humanitarian law and human rights that could amount to war crimes, with dozens of civilians killed in and around the targeted areas. 4 hospitals, and above 15 residential areas in the region were reportedly targeted. In addition, retaliatory shelling on Turkey’s territories and areas held inside Syria have been causing more death, According to the Violations Documentation Center (VDC).
We believe the blunt agreement by the UN and sponsoring parties including the EU, excluding Syria’s northeastern official and civil representatives from the formation of the constitutional committee entrusted with the future of Syria, created the political context for Turkey to launch its aggression against Syria’s borders regions against all international attempts to stop it, leaving local communities into a state of chaos and despair, seeking protection from the Russian army, and giving the Syrian government the opportunity for territorial gain.
With the Syrian regular army supported by Russia now reclaiming control over wider areas of Syria’s northeast, these figures are expected to increase. Syrian government troops will likely continue to indiscriminately target areas in northwestern Syria, in addition to their policy of arbitrary arrests of alleged dissidents residing in the regions under their control. While international and local human rights and humanitarian organisations are progressively leaving the northeastern regions fearing for their lives, a humanitarian crisis is in the making.
Turkish authorities claim to be planning the resettlement of about 3 million Syrian currently residing in Turkey, threatening Europe with a second wave of refugees if it opposed its military action in Syria. Turkey’s plan, if applied, would represent an apparent attempt to recompose the local demography. We recall that the forced displacement of civilians may amount to international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The future of Syria cannot be build based on the needs of fighting terrorism, or as a means to protect the national security of Syria’s neighbouring countries. Such actions are feeding into mainstreaming impunity for atrocities against civilians and pave the way for more violence between Syria’s communities, notably between Arabs and Kurds. They risk deeply harming the possibilities of reaching a peaceful and sustainable solution in Syria, hurting further the chances of rehabilitation of Syria’s social cohesion, leading to further instability and to a dangerous escalation of violence in the region, where civilians are likely to bear the highest price.
FIDH and SCM welcome the EU member States’ decision to suspend arms sales to Turkey, we stress the need to follow these steps with concrete moves. We particularly urge the EU and the international community to:
- Put an immediate end to the Turkish incursion into Syria and to the dire situation of Syrians, through the deployment of international peacekeeping troops along the Syrian-Turkish borders, and force all parties to the conflict to retreat their troops from the region;
- Refuse to take part in Turkey’s inhuman blackmail using Syrian refugees, as well as all attempts of demographic change from all parties to the conflict in Syria. We expect the EU to denounce these practices in the strongest terms with no further delay,
- Guarantee the return of IDPs and refugees to their hometowns in Northeastern Syria and everywhere in the country to preserve Syria’s social fabric and diversity;
- Guarantee and support the immediate return of humanitarian missions to the affected regions and ensure unhindered humanitarian access to affected areas and most in-need communities in the northeast and across Syria;
- Support the full participation of local communities in the local administration of their region and guarantee their safety and rights as a means of stabilisation until a sustainable political solution based on UN resolution 2245 is reached.